Humans have been hunting successfully for thousands of years with homemade bows and wearing rudimentary clothing. Our grandfathers killed many deer wearing flannel shirts and jeans. I imagine though, that if they had access to Gore-Tex and compound bows they would have used them too. Gear is an extension of ourselves while we are in the field. If you are like me, spending money on hunting gear is an investment and you need it to last as long as possible. Here are some tips to maintain your gear and keep it functioning at its best.
Waterproof boots are one of the best pieces of gear a hunter has. Whether leather mountain boots or rubber knee highs, they will last the longest if you follow a few simple steps.
- Use a boot dryer. You can pick one up for about $50 or less. Peet and DryGuy make the best models. I recommend the Peet Original Boot Dryer. You come home from hunting and stick your boots on it and plug it in. They slowly warm the boots. This dries them so they are good to go the next day. By drying them completely in between uses, their life will be extended. It will also prevent any bacteria from growing inside. Boot dryers will work on all boots and as a bonus can dry your gloves as well. If you hunt multiple days in a row this is a must-have.
- Use shoe trees in leather boots. As the leather dries, the tree will help the boot maintain its shape and not deform during the drying process.
- Apply a wax seal to your leather boots. Obenauf’s LP or Sno Seal are both great wax-based products for your Goretex leather boots. They will help them stay waterproof by increasing the amount of water the boots can take before wetting out. I apply Obenauf’s LP once a year using a hairdryer to open the leather pores so the wax sinks in. Obenauf’s is used by many firefighters to protect their boots.
- Clean your boots after each use. This is probably the most obvious tip, but leaving dirt and mud on your boots will eventually lead to cracking and degradation of the leather or rubber. A quick brushing and wipe down with a damp rag will keep your boots clean.
Modern camo is made from some of the best technical fabrics on the market. Merino, Gore-Tex, Polyester, and Windstopper fabrics are designed to wick moisture away from your body while keeping you dry and keeping the wind out. However, to function properly they do need to be cleaned regularly. Invest in a decent laundry soap for technical gear like Nikwax Tech Wash. While it can be tempting to just wear the clothes throughout the season, keeping them clean will improve performance. If you notice your outer shells wetting out (becoming waterlogged instead of beading water off) you can reapply a DWR (Durable Water Repellant) like Nikwax Tx.Direct to ensure they remain breathable and keep you dry. Always follow the washing label from the clothing. For the most part, I try to air dry my camo as much as possible, with the exception of outer shells which actually reactivate their DWR with low heat from the dryer. Make sure the laundry soap you use is odor-free and free of any UV dies to ensure that it keeps you concealed while hunting.
Compound And Crossbow
It is imperative that you keep your bowstring waxed. I apply wax after every time I hunt with my bow. Never apply the wax to the serving. Only use it on the bare strands of the bowstring. Keep your crossbow rail waxed as well. If you hunt in the rain, take your bow out of its case when you get home and allow it to dry out overnight. Inspect your bow regularly for any cracks on the limbs or frayed strands in the string. If in doubt, have it inspected. If you dry fire the bow, get it checked out. Preventative maintenance on a bow pays dividends as new strings or limbs can cost hundreds of dollars.
Keep your firearm oiled regularly. If you hunt on a wet day, clean your rifle or shotgun when you get home and reapply oil. Oil any exposed metal on the outside as well as inside of the weapon. A light coat is all you need, but it will keep it rust-free. Even stainless steel will eventually rust if not cared for properly. If you hunt in wet and rainy environments a lot, consider investing in a weapon that has been cerakoted and features a synthetic stock. It will stand up better to the elements over the long run. Unload your magazine when you get home as well and make sure the ammunition is also rust-free and dry before heading out. When not in use, store your firearms in a safe with a dehumidifier running in it. Apply a liberal coat of oil if it will be stored for an extended period of time. Regularly safety check the functions of the firearm ensuring the bolt, fire control mechanism, and safety are all functioning properly.
Always keep your optics in a case when not in use. Binoculars and range finders should be stored in a protective case or harness when hunting as well as when not in use. Your rifle scope should always be covered when not actively using it. I am a fan of the inexpensive neoprene sleeves to cover and protect your scope. Always let your optics dry out after use. Only clean the lenses with a microfiber cloth. At the end of the season remove and throw away the batteries from your range finder so they never become corroded inside the unit potentially damaging its function.
Keep your knife clean and sharp to extend its life and improve performance. If it gets wet, allow it to dry completely before replacing it in the sheath. If used on an animal, clean it using bleach or an antibacterial cleaner. Make sure to scrub any crevices or jimping to avoid any buildup of bacteria. Always keep the edge as sharp as possible to stay safe while using it to field dress or butcher an animal. A dull knife is a dangerous knife as it is much more likely to slip and injure you.
Take care of your gear and it will take care of you. Buying high-quality gear is an investment, but just like a car, it will require regular maintenance to keep it performing at its best. Taking a few simple steps before and after each time you hunt will ensure that your equipment is organized, clean, and ready to go.